Feb 232014

pennyStarting as a freelance writer I had a long period of bad jobs before I got my break. A client was willing to chance working with me, on an original project which would help me get more work. It paid reasonably well; so there had to be a catch. There was one, a small one. My new client was a clown. As a comedy writer I was a clown writing for a clown. But this was not just any clown.
There are different degrees of clowning. Happy children’s entertainers make balloon animals at birthday parties. Circus clowns indulge in prat falling and throwing custard pies before crying children, whist the real big ticket acts ready the equipment. Then, at the dark heart of clowning there are Rodeo clowns, whose job it is to distract enraged bulls with their capering so they don’t kill any of the performers (or at least only the clowns who are more disposable).
No play acting, no pies, just raw danger and a crowd baying for your blood. What would such a performer need with a comedy writer? Randy (not his real name) was a very special kind of Rodeo clown. Whilst the mangled bodies bull carcasses were being dragged out of the arena and the blood mopped up, Randy would entertain the audience with sketches, jokes and songs to keep them sweet. He specialized in Michael Jackson impersonations and moon walking, which seemed somehow fitting.
Randy was concerned that I woudn’t get the nature of the performance. Violence, howling drunken rednecks and vast amount of bull. It sounded like most of the gong shows and open mikes I’ve played as a standup.
We discussed his performance over email (he was a Canadian Rodeo clown). Randy was considering doing some stuff about his anti bullying project. I had nightmares of a sulky, palid goth child dragged to the rodeo by his parents, surrounded by guffawing, drunken, yokels glowering at a capering clown shouting;
“Hey Jethro your ma and pa said you’re being bullied at school, shall we sing a song about that.” Followed by news headlines “Saskattchewan school massacre, remorseful clown held, Interpol seek smart arsed,comedy writer.”
We tried differing subjects, with an impressively difficult set of parameters. The performance had to be short and family friendly because there were children in the audience. It had to be raucous and innuendo laden because there were parents there; and it had to be simple because the parents were most likely drunk .
After some early drafts Randy informed me that for special occasions he had a unique prop: a boat that had motorised wheels, with a built-in industrial bubble machine with which he could tootle around the arena.
So I wrote a sketch involving sweding Titanic, the James Cameron epic. Randy was cast in the role of Leonardo DiCapriom with a large ginger wig for Kate Winslet. The iceberg was a big piece of cardboard on a cart dragged behind the boat. Randy ended singing My Heart Will Go On in the style of Michael Jackson.
This was of course substantially superior to the actual film Titanic. Having thus bested a multimillion pound epic, my work was completed. I submitted my invoice and moved onto the next job, left only with the uneasy thought that in Canada mocking Celine Dion may actually be high treason and I could have got the clown into very hot water.

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